A Bit of Amusement

(God knows, we need it.)

If you were raised in (or have ever lived for an extended time in) the South, this is hilarious:

“Tennessee Williams with Air Conditioning”

(I read an article somewhere once† that attributed the rise of the modern South to the invention of air conditioning, which made it possible for people in that region to actually work from 9 to 5 in the summertime without turning into puddles of economically unproductive sweat. The writer of the article, as I recall, seemed to vaguely resent this.)


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Summertime, and the Living Is Sneezy….

We’re now well into the time of hot, oppressive days and high pollen counts.  The cats, instead of sitting like little furry meatloafs with tails and paws neatly tucked in, are stretched out into longcats, and can be reliably used to find the spots with the best cooling cross-drafts.

Which are no good to the rest of us, because the cats own them.

Summer is not the most enjoyable time for doing work, but work nevertheless must be done (this is where I point, in a discreet parenthesis, to the “Editorial and Critique Services” link up at the top of the page), so I’ll leave you with a handful of links to amuse or interest you during the days when you’re not on vacation at the beach, or in a mountaintop cabin, or in a hermetically sealed and thoroughly air-conditioned hotel room, if such is your pleasure:

First, a clip of Jim Macdonald, my co-author, in his other role as a magician (complete with top hat!)

Next, a good (and funny) explanation of the context rules for the use of bad language, and a report on the discovery of the earliest known use of the f-word in written English.

And finally, a video demonstrating how to put on a set of late 14th-century armor.

Stay cool, and enjoy.

Sometimes the Transmission Gets a Bit Fuzzy

As a tool for getting ideas out of one person’s head and into another’s, language (whether spoken or written) is a poor substitute for telepathy . . . but it’s the only tool we’ve got.

It’s not surprising, then, that writers often have an ambiguous relationship with language.  It’s both the tool we use and the medium we work in, and we admire its beauties and cherish its quirks at the same time as we curse at it for its limitations – not least because we can never really be certain that the worlds and characters which we use language to create are being re-created as we intended in the minds of our readers.  (Who, after all, speak their own personal  subsets of our common language, which of necessity are not the same as ours.)

For an interesting example of this phenomenon, consider this post on the Oxford English Dictionary’s blog, which discusses J. R. R. Tolkien’s description, in the Tale of Beren and Lúthien, of Lúthien dancing in “a mist of hemlocks.” The blogger points out that English and American readers may well visualize that scene differently, since the English “hemlock” is a flowering plant and the North American “hemlock” is most commonly a tall coniferous tree.

Really, given the different word-hoards and world-views that we all carry around inside our head, it’s amazing that language works as well as it does.

A Source of Amusement and Some Good Advice

I first encountered Wolcott Gibbs’s “Theory and Practice of Editing New Yorker Articles” in James Thurber’s The Years With Ross, Thurber’s memoir of the early days of the New Yorker magazine.

In many ways, it’s a relic of its moment in time (1937, to be precise); it was an internal memo, intended to bring new fiction editors up to speed on the magazine’s general style and tone.  Unlike most such documents, though, it’s fun to read.  A few samples:

Our writers are full of clichés, just as old barns are full of bats. There s obviously no rule about this, except that anything that you suspect of being a cliché undoubtedly is one, and had better be removed.


Mr. Weekes said the other night, in a moment of desperation, that he didn’t believe he could stand any more triple adjectives. “A tall, florid and overbearing man called Jaeckel.” Sometimes they’re necessary, but when every noun has three adjectives connected with it, Mr. Weekes suffers and quite rightly.


Among other things, The New Yorker is often accused of a patronizing attitude. Our authors are especially fond of referring to all foreigners as “little” and writing about them, as Mr. Maxwell says, as if they were mantel ornaments. It is very important to keep the amused and Godlike tone out of pieces.


The piece is available in its entirety here, and I highly recommend it.

Why the Girl Scouts Remain Awesome

Here’s a post on the official GSUSA blog explaining why Girl Scouts from one council will be marching in the Inaugural parade on Friday (short version:  it’s the DC area council, and they’ve been doing it for the past 100 years), and why other Girl Scouts will be marching in the Women’s March on Saturday, and in other marches across the country (short version: GSUSA is about teaching girls to make their own decisions, not about top-down control.)

Also – it’s Girl Scout Cookie time, and the classic shortbread trefoils are an awesome cookie.  Buy some if you have the chance – here’s a link to the official GSUSA page with info on finding cookie sales near you.

Bad Moon on the Rise

If everything in this article at blogcritics is true (and that does appear to be the case) then there is some very bad stuff going down at All Romance E-Books.

Hard to tell, from the available info, whether the root cause is malice or stupidity, but for the authors caught up in the ongoing mess, it doesn’t make a difference.

(This is also why, when I purchase an e-book, I prefer to take what measures are necessary to make certain I have it stored on my own hardware, and not on somebody else’s.)